Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No day passes

No day passes in which I don’t feel the close proximity of death — not death as gentle advocate arrived as memory or clad in fallen leaves, but as dark messenger or physician. Often, I feel so near death that when I speak and write it’s as if I hear my voice from beyond the veil, or that I could pass from room to room through the intervening walls. Mostly, though, I tie my shoes and go outside to get the mail. The neighbor affirms my presence with her smile. Like anyone else, I have bills to pay and miles to go before I sleep. And so I tighten my belt, wash my hands, and put my best foot forward — knowing, all the while, that each step, each action, each foolish, arrogant remark, could be my last. There’s nothing grim about it. Certainly, I’m in no hurry to die. But I love knowing, even though at times it frightens me, that I could be gone one sweet breath from now.

My inevitable, possibly imminent demise is tied directly, I think, to my perception of beauty. Moments and things are beautiful in part because I don’t know if I will live to see or experience them again. And the beauty of death is, as familiar as they seem, no two things or moments are ever completely the same.

Now, it follows logically that everything I’ve said about death I can also say about life. For I do feel, alive as I am, that I can pass through walls as well as any spirit or ghost. Better still, I don’t even have to know it’s happening. Who’s to say that in some dim hour when I’m visited in clear detail by the memory of a place that I have been, that a vaporous part of me has not gone there at that very moment to see it once again — to see it and be sure; to listen and inhale; to rejoice in its sad and glad refrain?

Life as physician; life as messenger; life, which is a fleeting perception of beauty.

Mostly, though, I tie my shoes and go outside to get the mail. And when the wind blows, and the leaves come down, and I turn around to find the road behind me has already crumbled to dust, I know that I am home. And then I push on, my hand out, should someone seek it in this or any other realm.

No one suffers joy alone. The pain we feel belongs to everyone.

“No day passes” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.


Artscapes said...

Your words are a reflection of my consciousness. Is it a natural occurrence when one recognizes there are more years behind then ahead? Not many talk about this kind of consciousness. It doesn't feel morbid but then why don't more people share these feelings.

There is a comfort in knowing that a vaporous part of ourselves can go back to where we've come. a sojourn is this life.

Greetings from the southwest corner of Canada

Anthony Duce said...

Very good, very smart…. I have the same feeling about death these days, and life. There are days though when I step out, that I remember mostly my youth and what I could do then, forgetting I couldn’t, if I tried now. And I forget, instead being pissed off over not being young anymore, thinking then that death couldn’t touch me.

William Michaelian said...

Elizabeth, I love that we begin with death and end with greetings. While it’s safe to say that you and I are both closer to the end than to the beginning of our lives, I’m not quite ready to ascribe these feelings simply to our age. That would be too easy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking in these terms for a good long while, and can distinctly remember feeling this way at a much younger age. Granted, there were more distractions then, a houseful of kids chief among them. Generally speaking, though, we are as a society so afraid of aging and death that we postpone facing it as long as possible, if not to the very end. Many of us never face it. And yet, how can we live full and meaningful lives if we don’t? Especially since death is around us at every turn, and we can see its necessity as a healing, renewing force. Like joy and sorrow, life and death go hand in hand; they are part of one grand movement, each strengthening and deepening the other. To me, that seems like a reason to celebrate. In the meantime, I don’t know how others will see this piece, but writing it gave much pleasure. And so does your response. Nothing is certain, and I’m glad we can meet this way and wonder about it aloud.

William Michaelian said...

Anthony, thanks. Young and restless and untouchable — arrogant is a word I use often to describe myself back then, and it often still applies, though not in terms of death. But there were times, late at night, in the dark, or working alone on our farm, when I felt anything but invincible. And the death of friends and loved ones arrived relatively early in my life; I’m sure that, combined with an already melancholy temperament, contributed to how I felt and still do feel.

Alberto Oliver said...

Not a grateful dead, but rather should we be the one grateful with "it". For reminding, for waking us from the drowsiness of the rutine, when we consider as true and long lasting all what we have, even the fugitive breath. That is why i agree with you in that death is beauty, since it is real, it has no prejudices, and it always honours its word.
Greetings William and thanks for your nice words

Two Tigers said...

Lots of provocative thoughts here, William...vast subjects, yet so intimate. I have always felt that life and death and beauty and sadness were all bound up together...why is it that great joy sometimes makes us cry? Is it some future version of ourselves looking back on a lost moment, or some past version of ourselves finally arriving at it? Also, while I am always aware of death as a reality, not to mention a marvelous literary conceit shadowing most artists like a small dog that may or may not be in a good mood from day to day...it is never more real to me than in moments I feel most alive, moments of great physical or emotional happiness. As if it would be a lot more fun for death to mess things up when they are going well than when you wouldn't mind the release! Thanks, W for a great post...

♥ Raven Rose ♥ said...

Your words are soothing William...as if death is as simple and gentle as closing our eyes and falling into a deep, restful, sleep. A sleep from which we do not awaken here but continue on in another state of being without our cumbersome bodies to weigh us down. These words of your's are very spiritual in a non-religious way~~~

William Michaelian said...

“Death... is real, it has no prejudices, and it always honours its word.” Words like a smiling stone winking up through a clear, cold pond. Beautiful, Alberto, and I thank you.

Gabriella, thanks, and thank you for your wonderful, thought-provoking response. In my book of short poems, Another Song I Know, there’s one entry that somehow applies. It’s called “Ask Yourself”:

a leaf
that falls
but never
then ask
if you
to live

Ask yourself: Is it you that is precious, or the gift you bear?

Raven Rose, I wonder if everything isn’t much simpler and easier than we make it out to be. Then again, being creatures of meaning and memory, maybe complication is what we need. In any case, I think in the end that there can be only one religion, if we must use that word, and that is life itself.

Old 333 said...

Thanks as always for your thoughts William - signposts well planted, words well said. You leave a trail of useful stepping-stones behind you in this river we all travel; you must have heavy pockets. The sun's coming up here right now, lighting up the clouds, and I expect a lot of things are in the glorious whirling red fall of their lives out there. And it's lovely, and so was your piece today, and thank you for it.


William Michaelian said...

Much appreciated, Peter. One very real aspect of the writing life, as I’m sure you know, is being able to see one’s work live and breathe and go to mulch. Somehow, your eloquence here both prolongs and hastens the process. I’m grateful.

RUDHI - Chance said...

Got a visit from an old friend last days to say farewell - he got the diagnosis of cancer with two months left over...

William Michaelian said...

Rudhi, my words catch in my throat; much better if they were raked into a pile and burned. So sad to hear about your friend; I’m glad, though, that you were able to see him, and he you. I haven’t been down his road, but I have been down yours.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

I don't know if "possibly immanent demise" was meant to be "imminent" demise, but it is brilliant as it stands and goes so well with these quietly powereful indwelling reflections.

William Michaelian said...

Lorenzo, in writing immanent I most certainly meant imminent. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. And yet, if we were to remove the “possibly,” I suppose it would still be true.

Thanks also for your kind words.